Yesterday I read and Tweeted about an article at Publishing Perspectives, “Career Reinvention for Publishing Professionals” by Andrew Malkin.
To me it was both useful and sadly prescient; it made me recall the Richard Bolles’ book, What Color Is Your Parachute?, originally self-published for a large number of the clergy who suddenly found themselves out of work.
article isn’t so much a how-to as a mini-memoir of how he’s developed
skills that make him attractive to a number of industries—even though
he’s still closely associated with traditional media by working at Zinio.
is interested in growing her skill set and exploring new opportunities,
and I know why. I look at my own narrow experience and think that if I
lost my job tomorrow, my contacts and very specific publishing
experience make it difficult to land anywhere but … another media
company (which aren’t exactly in hiring mode).
So, when I Tweeted Malkin’s piece, it was with these issues in mind, rather than its insight for writers.
But an insightful novelist and screenwriter, Jacqueline Lichtenberg, clicked
through and found a lesson in Malkin’s story, which she wrote about on
her blog. I’m re-posting the most relevant bits here. You can read her full post here, and be sure to follow her on Twitter.
This is the story of a
man who can talk PUBLISHING without ever referencing a compelling
story, plot, worldbuilding, background, character arc, or any of the
things that matter to us readers and writers.
From Andrew R. Malkin’s perspective, publishing isn’t about “compelling stories” at all.
most, he mentions one author’s name—and without a word about what
delicious, beloved characters this author has made famous! He never
talks about the fascinating relationships among characters, the drama,
the penetrating themes or pithy language as sources of the success of
his own efforts to market them.
This is a description of a
“characters welcome” character, a career marketer, a kind of person
that a writer never, ever, encounters, but upon whom a writer’s career
The writer deals with the Agent, the Agent deals with
the Editor, the Editor deals with her Managing Editor or Committee —
the book is contracted, edited, copy edited, designed, assigned a cover
— turned over to publicity (some writers get to know their publicist;
most don’t) — and then some layers beyond that publicist, the property
reaches this man’s hands where it lives or dies without having been
read by most of the people who packaged the product.
doesn’t matter how COMPELLING your story is or how marvelously smooth
the craftsmanship when this man causes success or failure of the book.
same multi-layered business model structure is used by TV and film
industries, eventually causing films to live or die at the box office
on the expertise of a man just like this one.
This is the
structure of the “Fiction Delivery System” the very existence of which
is hidden from the writer. The writer is never trained in how to
leverage the existence of these decision makers upon whom his/her
destiny depends. The reader/viewer never hears about these people.
that blog entry describing his history and his shift into the
electronic book publishing industry and you may come to understand
better “what” is happening to ebook publishing as the big guys take
over, and why they do what they do despite anything we can do or be or
What do you think? Is Jacqueline right? Does your success depend on these people working behind the curtain?